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Greek duo with University ties make impact at Olympics

By : Katie Ellis

Lydia Koniordou, a familiar face to Binghamton University, was asked many months ago by Olympics creative director Dimitris Papaioannou if she’d play a role in the games’ opening ceremonies.

On August 13, at the Olympics Stadium just outside Athens in the suburb of Maroussi, she did.

In a venue featuring a steel-and-glass roof designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and referred to as his “Olympic Dream,” Koniordou fulfilled her waking dream amid more than 80,000 performers.

Koniordou and Papaioannou have ties to the Binghamton campus that stretch back to 1999 and their performances, cornerstones of the University’s semester-long Homage to Greece celebration. Koniordou directed and starred in Sophocles’ “Electra,” and Papaioannou was the director, choreographer and star of “Medea.”

A native of Athens, Koniordou has been called the greatest contemporary tragedienne in Greece, where she has performed and directed in countless plays. She’s also taught acting, improvisation and ancient Greek drama worldwide, and earlier this year she returned to Binghamton to direct Euripides’ “Alcestis” on the Watters Theater stage.

Koniordou was so convinced that Papaioannou’s artistic vision for the Olympics’ opening ceremonies would be so wonderful that she said she would have participated blindfolded.

As it turned out, the experience was “one of the most happy moments” of her life, she said.

Papaioannou “had created a small universe in the stadium and it was like a journey in time - so beautiful and deeply moving,” she added. “I felt that we were sharing our gifts from the past with the whole universe.”

After opening the artistic portion of the ceremonies by reading a poem authored by a Greek poet, Koniordou witnessed history.

“I was in the stadium, walking slowly all around this sea created inside,” she said. “I was in the heart of the stadium. I felt like I was making a journey around the world and at the same time, through time, since ancient times.”

A record 202 delegations marched in the ceremony. In addition to 75,000 spectators at the stadium, more than 4.5 billion people worldwide watched on television.

“I also became conscious, along with many Greek people, that modern Greek artists and creators can now face our classical past and great civilization bravely and creatively, with love, humor and tenderness,” she said.

“We are not in need of proving anything anymore. It’s a turning point for us because it was such a high level of art, and yet it moved every spectator and touched everyone. The result, I believe deeply, will be seen in the future, at least in the world of creators.”
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Last Updated: 10/14/08